by Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs
Senate Committee Votes Down Homeschool Sports Access Bill
Homeschooling families from across the Commonwealth packed a Senate hearing room this morning, and they were disappointed with what they heard. Despite compelling testimony from homeschooled students who pleaded for more athletic opportunities in their own communities, the Senate Education and Health Committee defeated HB 947, Del. Robert Bell’s (R-Charlottesville) bill that would have allowed homeschoolers to try out for sports at their local high schools. The so-called “Tebow Bill,” nicknamed in honor of the formerly-homeschooled NFL quarterback, has garnered significant media attention and inspired strong public opinion both in its favor and in opposition. In a tight vote, eight of the committee’s fifteen senators voted in opposition to sending the bill on to the Senate floor.
With just one more vote, HB 947 could have reached the Senate floor. The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers and Delegate Bell knew going into the hearing, however, that one more vote would not be easy to find. Despite our best lobbying efforts, that vote did not materialize.
Voting in favor of the bill were the Committee Chair, Sen. Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield), Sen. Steve Newman (R-Forest), Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Norfolk), Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach), Sen. Dick Black (R-Leesburg), Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) and Sen. Tom Garrett (R-Lynchburg).
Voting in opposition were Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-Springfield), Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), Sen. Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake), Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Sen. George Barker (D-Alexandria), Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) and Sen. John Miller (D-Newport News).
What Happens Next
Del. Bell met with homeschooling families after the vote and pledged to put forward another homeschool sports access bill for the 2013 General Assembly. So while HB 947’s legislative journey is at an end, Virginia’s homeschooling families should expect to see more on this issue.
- Please thank your legislators if they supported HB 947. Send an email or, better yet, a hand-written thank-you note. Even better, encourage your kids to send a thank-you letter!
- Thank Delegate Bell. He has been a tireless advocate on behalf of the homeschooling community, and he deserves our thanks! Please drop him a note to tell him how much you appreciate his work. He’d also love to hear from homeschooled students.
- If your legislators did not support the bill, plan to meet with them after the General Assembly has concluded. This is a great time to meet, because they will be available in their district offices (near you) and will welcome contact with constituents. Gather a small delegation of homeschoolers to go with you and make a great impression!
- Talk about this issue with other homeschoolers, friends, neighbors and family members in Virginia. If you know or meet with public school coaches, athletic directors or administrators in your area, talk with them about it. Be positive and friendly, and share some of the reasons why you hope they will support the idea of homeschool sports access when it comes up again. If they have concerns, take them seriously. Contact VaHomeschoolers, and we will help you respond to these concerns.
Thanks to All the Families Who Supported HB 947
VaHomeschoolers’ Government Affairs team of volunteers would like to express our deep and sincere thanks to all of the moms, dads, kids, grandparents, and others who have worked to support this bill throughout this legislative session. Without your calls, emails, letters, and attendance at the General Assembly, there is no doubt that HB 947 would not have gotten as far as it did.
We’d like to send very special thanks to all of the students who testified in favor of the bill. It takes bravery and determination to stand up and speak in the General Assembly. Moms and dads, you should be very proud of your well-spoken children!
If you have any questions or concerns about this legislation, or any other legislative issue, please contact Amy Wilson, VaHomeschoolers Director of Government Affairs.
The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. A financial statement is available from the Virginia Division of Consumer Affairs upon request.